Tag Archives: Adult Forum and Bible Study

50 Covenants for 50 Years of Earth Day

Some Lutherans Restoring Creation have decided to take on a challenge of inviting at least 50 Congregations in their synod to make a Covenant with Creation in honor of Earth Day turning 50! Want to take take the challenge? Follow these steps below and let us know how it goes!

  • Print out this invitation letter and Covenant (ask us if you want a word document to edit).
  • Mail/e-mail it directly to ELCA churches in your area or create a spreadsheet to share the task with others (go to the ELCA Directory to get addresses in one place).
  • Call their office within a week to ensure it was received and ask who in their church would be the best to follow up with personally. That person should make a date to present the Council with the Covenant (that process may take months – but a great way to get everyone thinking about this ministry!)
  • Send your contact the Congregational Self-Organizing Kit if they are responsive to the idea. (A printed version would be good to share with their Council, but the whole kit is online too.)
  • Encourage folks to submit their goals on our shared Action Plan form here so that we can connect folks locally and topically.
  • Let us celebrate every step with you! Congregations with Covenants signed will be posted on our map and Goals Met/Events Hosted can be shared here.
  • NOTE: a Covenant isn’t necessary to start a Creation Care Ministry in your area – just one way. Look at our Upcoming Events to see many expressions of how you can get involved.

Ways to Integrate Creation Care in your Lenten Practices

As we prepare for the season of Lent, share these resources with your Bible Study group, Worship committee , Church Council or just for your own personal Lenten journey:

Gifts of restoration for YOU too!

On a recent Connections Call we asked folks to share some readings and resources that give them strength. Here are some links and downloads per their suggestions. Thanks to all the Green Shepherds on the call and bless your work!

“. . . the political spectrum is not a spectrum at all. It is a Spirograph, with Earth Firsters and home-schooled Christians overlapping here and diverging there.  You never knew who might own a gun or believe in God.”

 

Creation Care Ambassador Program

We are thrilled to announce that, through an ongoing partnership between the ELCA and ecoAmerica’s Blessed Tomorrow, a  Creation Care Ambassador Training occurred on April 4, 2020 with over 100 participants from across ELCA communities.  Once their training is complete,  these certified Ambassadors will be eager to share their new skills and resources with your Lutheran community.  Register here (click) if you are interested in having an Ambassador connect (virtually, or eventually in person).

Disappointed you missed this training event!?
Another one is already planned:
June 6, 2020 from 11:30 to 4 pm Eastern Time.

Register here (CLICK)

See how this resources fits into the other ways ELCA supports this ministry by listening to this recorded 1 hour webinar.  Please stay tuned for official registration information coming soon.

Light for Madrid – A Devotional

Thanks to the work of Green Shepherd, Lisa Brenskelle,  there is a way for your congregation to hold a gathering many miles away in prayer.  As the U.N. Climate Conference met in Madrid (Dec. 2-13, 2019) prayers were sent to support their efforts by bringing the conversation into churches in a prayerful way. Consider bringing this resource to your Bible Study, coffee hour, Sunday School or workplace to consider our impact on global issues from our pews.

Download the pdf here – and remember to print it double-sided, flip on the SHORT edge.

So We Can Restore Creation

While caring for the environment can feel overwhelming, it’s when we stand together, each doing our part, that we find hope, gain strength, and make a difference. Find a tool below to help celebrate God’s gifts to us!

Download (Click Here) the information shared from Portico and Lutherans Restoring Creation at Churchwide Assembly 2019 to celebrate our progress and map the long way we still need to go to restore creation.

Join Up

Adults, start by taking the LRC Personal Covenant.  In 5 – 10 minutes, complete your covenant with creation. You’ll start to receive LRC’s monthly Good Green e-News linking you to other Lutheran earth-keepers and helpful resources.

ELCA Retirement Plan members, invest consciously using Portico’s ELCA social purpose funds. Call a Portico Financial Planner at 800.922.4896 to learn whether you’re in the social purpose funds and how to make that choice.

Children, take the Child’s Pledge With Creation.  Print out this out and discuss with your family. Tip: Frame your completed pledge using a larger piece of cardboard like a cereal box and decorate it with magazine photos that are important to you.

Teens, take the Youth Pledge. Then, walk through the Your Day experience, reflecting on how your daily decisions can impact others with whom we share this planet.

Inspire Others

Rally your congregation to take the Congregational Covenant with CreationThen, use LRC resources to create an action plan with support from LRC mentors.

Active Earth-keepers, become a Green Shepherd in your synodAs your synod’s point person for LRC and ELCA Advocacy and Stewardship outreach, learn to identify, connect and motivate other “green sheep” in your synod.

 

YOUTH: How can YOUR decisions impact your global neighbor?

While the following pledge form was originally poised to the hundreds of Lutheran youth attending the 2018 Gathering in Houston, these questions help people of any age recognize their impact and how many tools their are to make changes of habit that offer fulfilling prayerful actions to every step of their day.  To put the questions in context check out the walk through presentation: Your Day – Your Global Neighborhood.

As you consider the unintended impacts of our daily actions,  commit with hundreds of other youth to try a few things differently. Our collective prayers are being listened to – our collective actions are being felt:

Tools for Talking and Acting on Climate with Faith-based Language

Blessed Tomorrow’s Moving Forward Guide

ecoAmerica helps leaders from the local government, the public health sector, and faith-based cohorts figure out how to usher people into urgent action on climate change. This brief guide provides you with information and resources to reduce energy use, to build resilient houses of worship as refuges from a changing climate, and to encourage support for policies that better care for creation.

See especially the section: Roadmap to Clean Energy by 2030 for clarity on steps to make once your congregation affirms the need for urgent action.

Water discipleship tools – fresh from Vermont!

Vermont Lutheran Church partners with Interfaith Power & Light to Share the Various Ways to Revere Water:

In 2018, Vermont Interfaith Power and Light (VTIPL) joined with local organizations to create a model for watershed stewardship, based on the experience of Ascension Lutheran Church in South Burlington, Vermont.  The Reverend Dr. Nancy Wright, pastor of Ascension Lutheran Church, and Richard Butz, a member of the church, are co-authors of the manuals. Rev. Nancy Wright is also a chairperson of the New England Synod’s Lutherans Restoring Creation “Green Team”. 

VTIPL has created two manuals, one with a Christian emphasis, Congregational Watershed Discipleship Manual: Faith Communities as Stewards of the World’s Waters (1st Christian edition) and another with an interreligious emphasis, Congregational Watershed Manual: Religious Communities as Stewards of the World’s Waters (1st Interreligious edition).

Each one of these inspiring and practical manuals is available by free download from the pdfs on VTIPL’s website (www.vtipl.org) and this website.  Alternatively, if you’d like one copy or multiple copies of the printed and bound manual(s), you can fill out and mail in the order form (attached below).  These are high resolution print copies, spiral bound to conveniently lie flat.  If you’d like to order one or more copies online, you can do this through the website of the organization Voices of Water for Climate (VOW).  VOW is working with VTIPL to take orders and distribute printed copies of the manuals.  Donations to VOW for printed copies will cover costs incurred, including shipping and handling.  The link to order online is below.

www.vow4climate.org/store 

(Email info@lutheransrestoringcreation.org if you are interested in going in on a bulk order with others!)

This is Church and You Are Needed Inside & Out

Watch this message from our churchwide leaders and fellow members across the country who recognize the tough, uncomfortable work of being “called out” into the world.  It is an empowering 7 minutes – worth the watch for all of us, not just the voting members who will be sitting in the conference rooms.

For those wanting to embolden their sense of calling to Creation Care for All as ministry inside and outside the church – you don’t need to have a resolution ready,  join a march, or preach on climate (yet). Start here:

 

Johan Bergh: Luther as Environmentalist

Download, read, and share widely this brief reflection from active disciple, Dr. Johan Bergh.  In his piece, published in the Trinity Review (2013), Bergh relates the framework of grace and neighbor love with how we are to understand the role of public action in our church.  Read more recent reflections on his blog: www.greengracepostings.blogspot.com

“God does not need our good works, but our neighbor does.” – Martin Luther

Download the six-page excerpt from Trinity Seminary Review here: Johan-Bergh-Published-Journal-Article-Luther-as-Environmentalist.pdf

Dr. Johan Bergh, ACC

Johan serves as Pastor for St. Philip Lutheran Church, Mt. Dora, FL., and is an International Coach Federation ACC Coach, ELCA Coach and Coach Mentor and ELCA Licensed Coach Trainer. He volunteers his service by coaching ELCA leaders and mentoring ELCA Coach-In-Training rostered leaders. He currently serves as Coaching Ministry Coordinator for the Florida-Bahamas  Synod and serves on the ELCA Churchwide Coaching Ministry Team as well as a level II Natural Church Development Coach. He earned his Doctor of Ministry degree from the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia in 2006 with a concentration in Discipleship and Leadership (M.Div., Trinity Lutheran Seminary, Columbus, OH 1981). His Bachelor of Science, Natural Resources, Environmental Interpretation (The Ohio State University) degree provides an environmental studies background for his current work as a Green Faith Fellow (www.Greenfaith.org)

He and his wife Janet have been married 39 years and have two adult daughters and two grandchildren.  He enjoys golf, running, hiking, fitness exercise, reading, biking, spinning, and good friends!

-Life and Missional Coach: http://www.beinganddoingmatters.com

-Coaching Ministry Coordinator, Florida-Bahamas Synod, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America: http://www.fbsynod.com

Reflections from The Bible to the Frontlines – Stony Point Retreat Center, August 2019

 Lutherans Restoring Creation partnered with Presbyterians for Earth Care for their bi-annual conference at Stony Point Retreat Center in NY August 6-9, 2019 where over a hundred earth-keepers gathered.  Below are some of the remarkable reflections during our time together processing how to take some of the Bible’s directives to bring us to the frontline. Using the World Cafe Method, participants conversed around the three following verses and considered how the Word could help them (and their faith community) progress from movement to action.

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. John 15: 5

“Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.”
Psalm 119:105

 For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us.
Romans 12: 4-6

Here are images of our time together at Stony Point Retreat Center:

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Peace for the Earth: From the Bible to the Frontlines

Voices from the ELCA – Caring for Creation Today

God’s work. Our hands. from ecoAmerica on Vimeo.

ELCA churches across the country are working to serve our neighbors and to ensure that how we live does not harm others, including those yet to be born, vulnerable populations, and even life other than human.  We have an ELCA Social Statement written over 25 years ago on the topic, but how do we live that out?  The compilation of voices above give some examples, but it is clear we need to do more.  Lutherans Restoring Creation can help you determine what next steps your congregation can make. Click here for a Step by Step guide to begin work now from your pulpit, pews, and personal life.

Microscopic – Lost in Wonder, Love, and Praise

Micro-Creation Service Bulletin – Click here – free to share! (wonderful readings, music, etc.)

Homily by Pastor Susan Henry, House of Prayer Lutheran Church – Hingham MA

Pentecost 13 B Creation  – –  August 19, 2018

Grace to you and peace from God our Creator and from our Lord Jesus Christ.

Lost in Wonder, Love, and Praise

Because I was appalled at the prospect of dissecting a frog, I never took biology. My study of living organisms hasn’t been academic, but it has led me to love life, to stand in awe of God’s creative impulses and energy, and, lately, to feel more and more connected not just with human life, but with all of life.

I wasn’t in a biology lab, but I learned about dinosaurs, insects, and sea creatures because I was teaching four-year-olds about them. I know chicken anatomy because whole chickens are cheaper than chicken parts, so I long ago learned how to cut them up. I’ve milked goats and stirred a microbe-rich culture into that milk to make yogurt, and I’ve watched and smelled yeast at work in fragrant, rising bread dough. Most of what I know about plants comes either from gardening, being in the woods, or drawing what I see around me. Really, what I know about biology is more like having a pocketful of seeds, twigs, and shells than knowing where everything fits in a grand scheme. But, as a hymn puts it, I’m “lost in wonder, love, and praise.”

This is the third of three summer worship services that have been turning our hearts and minds to God the Creator “of all that is, seen and unseen” – the God of galaxies so vast and so distant it’s hard to wrap our minds around them, the God of forests that breathe in the carbon dioxide we have exhaled and then breathe out the oxygen we will inhale, the God of a fungal network so infinitesimal that 800 miles of it runs through the soil beneath just one footstep that we take. Really, the mind boggles!

The biblical writers knew nothing of micro-organisms, of course, but they too were lost in wonder, love and praise: “I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” “How great are your works, O Lord! Your thoughts are very deep!” Both worship and study can draw our attention to what we might often take for granted about God’s awe-inspiring, gracious, creative work made known in human and other-than-human life.

At Bible study Thursday morning, we read today’s verses from scripture, and then we sat in awe of how our bodies are able to heal when we get a cut or break a bone. We laughed in amazement at the number of cherry tomatoes a mere three plants can produce from three tiny seeds. We pondered what we can see through a telescope and what is far beyond our seeing. We caught a glimpse of how everything is connected, how everything belongs. We were lost in wonder, love, and praise.

It’s good for us to intentionally focus on the marvels of creation and on the Creator of all that exists. It’s good for us to contemplate how interrelated all of life is, so that we can honor, respect, and protect what God has made and continues to create. It’s good for us to acknowledge how the Earth suffers when we fail to care for God’s creation, so that we can confess “what we have done and left undone” and so that we can change our ways.

Our reflection today about “the zoo in you” comes from Larry Rasmussen, a Lutheran ethicist who teaches at Union Theological Seminary in New York City. He too is lost in wonder, love and praise when he considers the sacredness of the web of life of which we are a part. But out of a passion for the well-being of that whole web of life, he is calling us to a life of faith that honors not only human life, but the life of the Earth itself. We’ve not been very good at that. We humans most often see our planet through the lens of how it can be useful to us, and we’ve gotten quite adept at consuming Earth’s resources – often without considering the consequences of what we do. Never before in Earth’s history have human actions been able to have such a massive impact on the web of life on Earth. That is no small thing.

People of faith bring a perspective to this situation that is grounded in knowing and loving God who creates, redeems and sustains us. And although we do think of God as the creator of all life, we probably haven’t thought much about God’s redeeming and sustaining work for the sake of all of life, for the sake of the web of life itself. Even less have we considered what it might ask of us to honor God’s desires for the well-being of all life.

Well-being, wholeness, fullness of life, flourishing, completeness, harmony, peace – this is the future God is drawing us toward. Scripture uses the word “shalom” to speak of this kind of life. We can also recall Jesus’ many parables about the kingdom of God. People kept asking Jesus, “What is the kingdom of God like? What is life like where what God desires is how life actually is?”

One time, Jesus said, “[The kingdom of God] is like yeast that a woman took and mixed in with three measures of flour until all of it was leavened.” Now, you may find that as enigmatic a response as the Bible study group did, but that’s the nature of parables. Jesus didn’t hand out easy answers but instead left his hearers puzzling over his words, taking them back home with them, pondering what yeast is and what someone did and what the result was – and what all that has to do with wholeness and well-being and flourishing.
Among other things, perhaps Jesus was calling his followers to be leaven in the loaf of their society, to help create something life-sustaining and God-honoring. People of faith like us today can be the leaven mixed into critical discussions and decisions about the well-being of the Earth and about the flourishing of all life – the leaven, the soil, the wheat, the baker, and those who share the bread. In living out such an Earth-honoring faith, we may discover that the kingdom of God has come near.

Amen

Creation of the Cosmos: “Of All that is Seen and Unseen”

Creation of Cosmos Service – Feel free to download and share this bulletin.  Please don’t forget acknowledgements.

Creation: The Universe  – – June 17, 2018
Homily by Pastor Susan Henry, House of Prayer Lutheran Church, Hingham MA

Of All That Is, Seen and Unseen

In the summer, it would be hard not to notice the goodness of God’s creation. Long days and starry nights; fruitful gardens and gorgeous flowers visited by bees and hummingbirds; picnics and cookouts; backyard sprinklers and ocean waves; time outdoors with families, friends and pets; vacation plans or memories – such things immerse us in the created world around us. On one Sunday in each of the summer months, we’ll turn our hearts and minds in worship to God whom we know not only as our Creator, but as the Creator of the vast, expanding universe, of the human and other-than-human life that’s all around us, and of the vital microbial life far too small for us to see.

We Lutherans are occasionally criticized for “an idolatry of the Second Person of the Trinity” – in other words, for so much emphasis on Jesus that we don’t pay enough attention to the Father and the Holy Spirit. It’s a critique worth considering. So, today, let’s affirm our belief “in one God, the Father, the Almighty, the maker of heaven and earth, of all that is, seen and unseen.”
I am thankful for all that God has made, but I too often take God’s ongoing creative work for granted. I water the herbs on my deck and Rae tends to the vegetables in his garden, but we know we ourselves don’t make them grow. In gardens and farms and vineyards everywhere, God keeps creating. Episcopal priest and chef Robert Farrar Capon once remarked on how next year’s wine depends on God saying, “Mmmm. That was good. Let’s do it again.”
The sun continues to rise and set, rain falls, the moon waxes and wanes, and I do nothing but stand in wonder now and then. Maybe you do, too. Poets, like the writers of Proverbs, Psalms, Isaiah 40, and the prologue to John’s gospel, all give voice to my wonder and yours. Together in worship today, we get to delight in Wisdom’s companionship with God. We get to imagine how the sun, the moon and the stars themselves praise their Creator. Seen from God’s perspective, we who look like grasshoppers have to wonder how it is that the God who called light and life and all creation into being cares about us churchgoers in a little town on the South Shore in Massachusetts. It’s stunning, really.

The ancient worldview seems quaint in relation to our knowledge about the universe today. Only relatively recently have we been able to see our own planet from beyond it. You’ve probably seen the iconic photograph of Earth, the “Blue Marble,” that was taken by astronauts on their way to the moon. Like the biblical writers, scientists too stand in awe and resort to poetic language to describe what the Apollo 17 astronauts saw: “Earth is revealed as both a vast planet home to billions of creatures and a beautiful orb capable of fitting into the pocket of the universe.”

It’s hard to get my head around what that lovely image describes – our planet spinning in a spur near the edge of our galaxy where a look at the night sky gives us a tiny, fuller glimpse of God’s ongoing creation. Out there, stars are born and die. Galaxies collide and trigger starbursts. Bright and dark nebulae, supernovas and black holes reflect the creative energy of the “maker of all that is, seen and unseen.”

I can barely get the vocabulary right, let alone comprehend the expanding universe that reflects our worldview. I’m happy to live with some mystery as I contemplate God’s creative energy and God’s astounding creation. This is more frenetic than poetic, but it might be a theme you recognize:

Our whole universe was in a hot dense state,
Then nearly fourteen billion years ago expansion started. Wait. . .
The Earth began to cool,
The autotrophs began to drool,
Neanderthals developed tools,
We built a wall (we built the pyramids),
Math, science, history, unraveling the mystery,
That all started with the big bang!

Awesome work, God. Now, one of the things I love about being the Lutheran kind of Christian is that we read the Bible as a book of faith. We don’t turn to it as a science book, and we recognize that the history it tells is told by people of faith for the sake of faith. We can still join our voices with people who held an ancient worldview that knew nothing of Earth’s place in the Virgo Supercluster. We can join our voices with all creation – sun, moon, stars, planets, galaxies – in praise of our Creator. And since we ourselves are literally made of stardust, we can truly “join in the hymn of all creation.”
As astrophysicist Karel Schrijver and professor of pathology Iris Schrijver put it, “Our bodies are made of remnants of stars and massive explosions in the galaxies. All the material in our bodies originates with that residual stardust, and it finds its way into plants, and from there into the nutrients that we need for everything we do – think, move, grow. And every few years, the bulk of our bodies are newly created.” In more than one way, God is always creating, renewing, feeding, and transforming us.

When we consider God’s heavens, the work of God’s hands, the galaxies that God has created, who are we that God is mindful of us, that God is concerned about us? The mind boggles. And yet – the witness of scripture is that God does indeed care about us and for us, that God cares so much that God came to live among us in Jesus, stardust himself, like us. So intimate was Jesus’ relationship with the Creator of the whole universe that Jesus prayed, “Abba, Father, Daddy. . . .” We who know Jesus as our brother may also pray, “Abba, Father, Daddy. . . .” And perhaps, as we stand awestruck by God’s creative power and saving love, we can pray a simple prayer. German mystic Meister Eckhart famously said that if the only prayer we ever prayed was “Thank you,” it would be enough.

So, let us pray. Creator of the universe . . . maker of all that is, seen and unseen . . . Abba, Father, Daddy . . . thank you. Amen.

What does church have to do with it?

As many faith-based organizations are struggling with their place in relation to people’s daily lives, so does the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America look for ways the world can use what we offer.  As part of an appeal for our churches to take on the uncomfortable challenge of being engaged in the public sphere, let’s take stock of how other sectors of our society ask the church for help.  If you have articles or stories to share please submit them to info at lutheransrestoringcreation dot org.

Comments from BBC’s NewsHour Jan 22, 2019 Davos, Switzerland as Global Business leaders meet at World Economic  Forum:

Listen in to this conversation from global leaders and their call to us all to act as leaders.

What does a “moral and empathic revolution” look like?

When are you tempted to make villains out of your neighbors?

How can prayer offer a way out of habits that take us further away from our goals?

Creation reorientation: Liturgy to Reconcile People and Planet

(Click here to download this document.)

Created by Bridget Jones in 2018 as part of her Masters of Divinity program at Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago (Environmental Emphasis)

Introduction

As the climate warms, sea levels rise, forests are decimated, and numerous species become extinct, there is no denying that humans are more estranged from the rest of the created universe than ever before. As Christian communities, we are called to join God’s work of reconciliation and healing throughout the cosmos. Our earth is not just a collection of natural resources for us to steward wisely, but a fellow created-being, a creature in need of healing.

Within the past few years, many works have been released about “greening” a congregation, with subjects like incorporating creation care practices into fellowship hour, planting community gardens, and engaging in eco-justice. However, much of this new information stops at the doors of the sanctuary. While many congregations have begun to celebrate Seasons of Creation, there is usually not a year-round emphasis on everything else God has created. But as we continue to do damage to the Earth and everything that lives on it through our lifestyles and participation in systemic sin, there is a need for creation-centered liturgy.

Worship can be a reorientation, a way to focus us toward our values and toward God’s mission of justice throughout the earth. We can begin to pay attention to the needs of fellow created beings as we gather each week. As Gordon Lathrop states, “Sunday after Sunday, our own worldviews are reconstituted, and we are made witnesses to the triune God’s engaged care for the beloved, wounded earth.”1

As witnesses, we remember that we are not just care-takers or stewards. That is part of our vocation as fellow created beings, but we are not creation’s saviors. Ultimately, it is God’s power that heals and renews the cosmos and continues the creation that God started. Rather than continually asking God to help us to remember the earth, or to give us courage to carry out the effort alone, we can begin to remember God’s action and let that give us courage to join in the ongoing work.

Sometimes Lathrop seems to argue that the ordo itself already points to all creation, and the solution to our eco-alienation is more teaching about our traditional elements.2 However, I would argue for an altering of the ordo that is more obvious so that even those unfamiliar with the ancient traditions of the liturgy will be drawn into right relationship with everything God has made. Our task as worshiping communities “…is to anticipate and contribute to the promise of ultimate liberation and reconciliation in human communities and with the rest of nature.”3

To state it even more boldly: “God’s love of creation, God’s desire to redeem creation, and God’s action in reorienting our human relationship with the rest of creation ought to be so present in all we do in worship that they claim our hearts and minds with enthusiasm.”4

To that end, this guide will focus on five guiding principles to reorient every liturgy toward our wounded siblings:

Worship reorients us toward all other created beings.
Worship draws our attention to the cries of creation.
Worship demonstrates the sacramental nature of creation.
Worship joins us to the liturgical life of all creation.
Worship with creation can happen every week.
Worship reorients us toward all other created beings

Often the central idea of worship is only giving praise to God, but in reality worship is doing much more. In fact, rather than a one-way relationship where we shape worship services, we find that in a way worship shapes us. Paul Santmire states it even more unequivocally when he claims, “…ritual creates and sustains the ideas and values and myths, the power relationships and fears, not the other way around.”5

Worship has a powerful influence on congregations that often goes unacknowledged. It has the potential to enact great change in the hearts and minds of worshippers as they gather each week, especially if the service is constructed in such a way that allows for such a transformation. In fact, “…when we worship we put ourselves in in a position to allow God to give us our bearings, to reorient us, to restore us to our rightful relationships.”6

Most liturgies already restore right relationships with God and may even point us toward our neighbors, but unfortunately, “…the orientations we have allowed our religious rituals to give us have been almost exclusively interior orientations to the self, a map of the human heart without a macrocosm, without exterior references except to a World Away From Here, “heaven,” we may call it.”7

It is more than past time to update our liturgy so that it also restores us to rightful relationships with all creation and allows us to be shaped into fellow Earth creatures who care for our siblings, all other created beings. As Lathrop would argue, those seeds have already been planted: “The cardinal directions in Christian liturgy are these: toward God, toward each other in the assembly, toward the needy, toward the earth.”8 However, just as a GPS in your car is unhelpful if it doesn’t give you turn-by-turn directions, these compass points can be similarly unhelpful without obvious arrows pointing toward their directions.

The Season of Creation is one way to make those directions more obvious. Beginning in the mid 1990’s, congregations all over the world have devoted several weeks to focusing on God the Creator and worshipping with all creation. “The Season of Creation challenges us to reorient our relationship with creation, with the Creator, with Christ, and with the Holy Spirit…We return to see ourselves again as part of the very Earth from which we are made.”9 If we continue this trajectory to encompass all seasons of the church year instead of just four weeks, we can strengthen this reorientation, which is what the founders of the Season of Creation intended.

As we gather each week as communities of faith, we continue to turn back to God and to our neighbor. Now we can turn also to the Earth and the entire universe. As Ben Stewart states, “[Christian worship] is an act that ascribes worth to God, to us, and to the whole environment around us, stretching out to include the entire ‘very good’ cosmos.”10 Updating our liturgies can communicate how we value the earth and everything on it as we turn toward our hurting created siblings.

Worship draws our attention to the cries of creation.

In the liturgy of the Greek Orthodox Church, there are several places where the presider will say, “Let us attend!”11 In other words, pay attention! One could go through a worship service in a kind of mental fog, but these words call the congregation to be present and aware as important things happen. In the same way, now that our lives are so isolated from nature, we too could go through life in a kind of fog without fostering any kind of connection with God or our neighbors or the Earth. Liturgy itself already calls out, “Let us attend!” to the poor, to the needy, and to our loving God, but what of the creatures that cry out, or our wounded planet? Just as our worship reminds us to pay attention to the least of those around us as we go forth into the world, it can remind us of our siblings of other species and their concerns.

Similarly, there are several places in the Gospels where Jesus brings healing to those who cannot use their senses – though quite often, it is the disciples who are rebuked for seeing and hearing, yet not understanding. As earth-dwellers, our senses have become numb to the suffering of creation, and often when we do perceive what is going on around our fragile planet, we do not fully understand. The liturgy has a place in helping us regain our senses and our understanding of our place in the cosmos

It allows us to ask questions like, “What if authentic biblical religion and the liturgy that enacts and celebrates that religion really do mean to heal our eyes so that we may see the world itself held into holiness in God?”12 Eco-liturgy is the mud placed on our eyes, the fingers in our ears as God says, “ephphatha” – be opened – so that our senses may perceive what has been there all along: a cosmos in need of healing.

Creation itself is a sign that opens our senses and causes us to pay attention. As we hear the whispering of grasses, smell the saltiness of the ocean, see the beauty of majestic animals, taste the sweetness of honey, and feel snow falling softly on our upturned faces, we are called again to “attend” to creation and reminded of its need of healing. These material signs are a gift from our God who continues to offer tangible reminders to people who easily forget.

According to Martin Luther, God has always graciously condescended to our need for material signs:

For all the sacred accounts give proof that by His superabundant grace, our merciful God always placed some outward and visible sign of His grace alongside the Word, so that men, reminded by the outward sign and work or Sacrament, would believe with greater assurance that God is kind and merciful…Thus the church has never been deprived to such an extent of outward signs that it became impossible to know where God could surely be found.”13

These signs and opening of our senses point us toward creation and creation’s cries, as well as the ways that God is dwelling in the broken creation.

Worship demonstrates the sacramental nature of creation

As we become aware of how God dwells in the earth that God has declared very good, we also become aware of how the Word comes to the material elements of the cosmos, giving all creation a sacramental nature. While different theologians can argue over the intricacies of sacral versus sacramental, both positions share common ground in that God dwells in, with, and under all the earth, God has made a covenantal promise with all creation, and creation itself is an element containing the presence of God.

Thus: “…our transcendent God is not floating loose somewhere beyond, but is bound to creation. In this sense, creation is God’s home, even as we can think of it as our sanctuary. Hence, as we have said, all creation is sacral, not just the eucharistic meal.”14 While we can easily recognize water, bread and wine as participating in God’s grace, the rest of creation also points to God’s saving love for a broken cosmos. Furthermore, “The god whose presence fills Earth and who suffers with creation is also the God who through Christ is restoring creation and reconciling alienated dimensions of the creation.”15

God’s presence fills Heaven and the earth, pointing toward God’s grace through physical signs and symbols. All creation participates in this reorientation toward God’s saving love for the cosmos. This is shown also throughout the year as we celebrate different seasons of the church year. “So the liturgical year offers what we might call a sacramental approach to the earth’s seasons, approaching the earth’s great cycles as holy signs of Gods’ saving action in history, drawing us into worship alongside the whole living earth.”16

Just as Sunday morning helps us see ordinary bread, wine, and water as symbols of God’s expansive love for the entire universe, our worship can help us to realize the natural world is also pointing toward God’s grace. Thus all created things become sacramental, “…because the mystery of divine, self-giving presence is really mediated through the riches of the heavens and the earth. Participating in the glory of God, our whole planet is a beautiful showing forth of divine goodness and generosity.”17

Worship joins us to the liturgical life of all creation.

It could be easy to imagine that only humans have a relationship with the Creator, but in fact everything that God has made rejoices in the Lord. Because humanity is relatively new to the planet, we are becoming part of a worship service that is already in progress and has been for eons. “Christian worship has always been an act of joining the wider worship of the whole creation, a liturgy that began long before humans even existed.”18

This worship is mentioned throughout the scriptures, in like Psalm 19:1-4:

The heavens declare the glory of God,

and the sky proclaims its maker’s handiwork.

One day tells its tale to another,

and one night imparts knowledge to another.

Although they have no words or language,

and their voices are not heard,

their sound has gone out into all lands

and their message to the ends of the world,

where God has pitched a tent for the sun.

Similarly, Psalm 148:1-6 declares:

Halleluia!

Praise the Lord from the heavens;

praise God in the heights.

Praise the Lord all you angels;

sing praise, all you hosts of heaven.

Praise the Lord, sun and moon;

sing praise, all you shining stars.

Praise the Lord, heaven of heavens,

and you waters above the heavens.

Let them praise the name of the Lord,

who commanded, and they were created,

who made them stand fast forever and ever

giving them a law that shall not pass away.

The psalm goes on to assert that sea monsters, fire and hail, mountains, wild beasts, and all people join in the worship of the Lord. This hymn of praise continues whether humans can hear it or not. Thus worship becomes a communal act throughout the entire cosmos rather than a gift only humanity can offer God.

Worship with creation can happen every week.

Reading through the principles, case studies, and guidelines in this study could cause one to think that this guide may be helpful around Earth Day or in a liturgical Season of Creation. However, if we take seriously the depth of humanity’s alienation from the rest of the cosmos and the urgency with which we must approach the planetary crises we are facing, these principles should be incorporated each and every week to begin to create the kind of transformation creation cries out for.

Even those responsible for popularizing the Season of Creation in the United States admit that those four weeks are only the beginning of a larger movement. As they say, “A Season of Creation has proven to be valuable in its own right. Yet we also need the Season of Creation to wake us up and show us another way to do worship all the time.”19

Worshippers may object to what could be considered a special interest taking over the liturgical life of a congregation. After all, incorporating all of these principles every single week could seem like pastors and worship leaders are trying to hit their parishioners over the head with their pet project. However, if truly believe that creation cries out for healing and that it is part of our Christian vocation to care for creation, then leaders will do the work to prepare their people for this liturgical revolution.

After all, we do not celebrate four weeks of justice for the oppressed, nor do we wait for one Sunday per year to proclaim God’s love. Those compass points are part of our worship practice in the way that eco-worship can and should be. Furthermore, because human beings are also created beings along with the entire cosmos, literally every human concern is a derivative of creation care. Wounded veterans, the poor and oppressed, the sick and dying, and others we pray for each week are all earth creatures in need of healing. If congregations can understand that, “According to the creation story in Genesis 1, this is what we are called to do: love God, love our neighbors, care for creation,”20 then every worship service can continue to point to our Christian vocation.

Final thoughts

The task before ministers, liturgists, and worship leaders is clear: humanity must be reconciled to the rest of the cosmos. As all creation continues to cry out in pain and brokenness due to human activity, our vocation is more urgent than ever before. But as we begin to be returned to our proper place in the cosmos, our senses restored to recognize creation’s brokenness, recognizing God dwelling in this very good earth, joining in the worship of the whole universe, and doing those things every week, we will come to perceive and join God’s work of healing and salvation for all the cosmos. Finally:

If God created the world as a place in which human life in inextricably woven into the rest of creation, then we need to make the natural world self-consciously an integral part of our worshiping experience. If worship means being restored to our proper place in the world in order to reorient us, to recall who we are, where we have come from, the things upon which we depend, and that for which we are responsible, then worship must be a celebration of all creation and a reorientation of ourselves to our proper place within it.21

Case Studies

As a Lutheran worship leader, I draw heavily from the hymnal and liturgical guide published by the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America. These case studies and the rest of this guide will reference material from Evangelical Lutheran Worship, or the ELW. However, the principles can be applied to other worship sources and resources from other denominations just as easily.

Prayers of Intercession

The prayers of intercession, or the prayers of the people, are a major part of reorienting the congregation toward creation as we intercede on creation’s behalf. Gradually, more of creation has been included in these petitions that are provided by the resource Sundays and Seasons (sundaysandseasons.com), so that at least one each week is geared toward the natural world. However, often these petitions subtly reinforce humanity’s dominance by praying that creation continue to benefit us and by excluding prayers for God’s restoring and healing power and focusing solely on humanity’s agency.

For example, prayers asking for blessing upon agriculture, hunting, or fishing are not intercessions on creation’s behalf for the sake of creation; they are intercessions that these parts of creation continue to be beneficially exploited by humanity. Similarly, prayers that humankind become better caretakers of this earth on which we live become prayers directed toward human agency as we clean up our own home so that we can continue to live in it.

For instance, look at the creation petition for the fifth Sunday after Epiphany in 2018:

For the earth and all living creatures, for those preparing fields for planting, and for favorable weather, that all of us who care for this life will find voice to help creation thrive, let us pray.22

While the beginning phrase “for the earth and all living creatures” turns us toward other created beings, and the phrase, “help creation thrive,” in a way can draw our attention to the parts of creation that are not thriving, the third and fourth principles are not realized. Since this genre of prayer has continued to be incorporated on most Sundays, it does continue every week. A different prayer could perhaps strengthen our reorientation for this single petition, as would a second petition specifically for human concerns as related to nature. For example:

Indwelling God, the earth is filled with your glory. We pray for the planet and all living creatures, especially creation in need of healing. Bring your power of redemption to the whole cosmos that all may continue to worship you.

And for humans:

God our provider, you have given humankind food and shelter on this earth. Bless those preparing fields for planting and provide favorable weather. Give us strength and courage to join your work of healing our common home.

Not every prayer each week needs to include all of the principles. However, the more principles that are included, the more a congregation can be turned toward the rest of creation. For example, while the prayer for the first Sunday in Lent for 2018 does not address the sacramental nature of creation or the ways creation worships God, it does turn those praying toward creation in a way that includes humankind in creation without placing humanity at the pinnacle:

“We pray for the world. For the well-being of both our own surroundings and of distant places. For favorable weather and sustaining rains. For creatures awakening from hibernation or beginning seasonal migrations. Provide safe habitats and abundant food for all. Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer”23

One edit to make our place in creation even more clear would be to change “For the well-being of both our own surroundings and of distant places” to “For the well-being of all environments around the globe.”

One of the best prayers for creation in Evangelical Lutheran Worship can be found in the additional prayers section in the front of the hymnal. The prayer called Creation’s Praise centers creation’s worship and draws humanity into that praise without making the prayer all about humanity. While it might be tempting to read this prayer only on special celebrations, such as Earth Day or a season of creation, parts of this prayer can be adapted and used many times throughout the church year.

“Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ, who in your self-emptying love gathered up and reconciled all creation to the Father. Innumerable galaxies of the heavens worship you. Creatures that grace the earth rejoice in you. All those in the deepest seas bow to you in adoration. As with them we give you praise, grant that we may cherish the earth, our home, and live in harmony with this good creation, for you live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.”24

Eucharistic Prayer

Another large section of the liturgy that should be subjected to scrutiny and careful choices is the Eucharistic Prayer. There are several different options offered in the ELW, some used more than others. The first one offered is incredibly anthropocentric, to the point where it ignores the rest of creation altogether:

You are indeed holy, almighty and merciful God.

You are most holy,

and great is the majesty of your glory.

You so loved the world that you gave your only Son,

so that everyone who believes in him may not perish

but have eternal life.

We give you thanks for his coming into the world

to fulfill for us your holy will

and to accomplish all things for our salvation.

In the night in which he was betrayed,

our Lord Jesus took bread, and gave thanks;

broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying:

Take and eat; this is my body, given for you.

Do this for the remembrance of me.

Again, after supper, he took the cup, gave thanks,

and gave it for all to drink, saying:

This cup is the new covenant in my blood,

shed for you and for all people for the forgiveness of sin.

Do this for the remembrance of me.

For as often as we eat of this bread and drink from this cup,

we proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.

Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again.

Remembering, therefore, his salutary command,

his life-giving passion and death, his glorious resurrection and ascension,

and the promise of his coming again,

we give thanks to you, O Lord God Almighty,

not as we ought but as we are able;

we ask you mercifully to accept our praise and thanksgiving

and with your Word and Holy Spirit to bless us, your servants,

and these your own gifts of bread and wine,

so that we and all who share in the body and blood of Christ

may be filled with heavenly blessing and grace,

and, receiving the forgiveness of sin,

may be formed to live as your holy people

and be given our inheritance with all your saints.

To you, O God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,

be all honor and glory in your holy church, now and forever.

Amen, amen, amen.25

The phrase, “We give you thanks for his coming into the world to fulfill for us your holy will and to accomplish all things for our salvation,” ignores the redemption of the cosmos and focuses on humanity’s salvation. As it asks, “that we and all who share in the body and blood of Christ may be filled with heavenly blessing and grace, and, receiving the forgiveness of sin, may be formed to live as your holy people,” this prayer’s praise and petitions are all focused on the congregation’s relationship with God to the exclusion of all else. This Eucharistic prayer orients the congregation toward God and the rest of the assembly, but not toward the needy or the rest of creation. It doesn’t acknowledge the cries of creation, admit to the sacramental nature of creation or join us to the liturgical life of creation. This prayer – in some ways the apex of the service – can play a pivotal role in reconciling people to the cosmos if some of these principles are incorporated.

Different liturgical seasons offer slightly more ecological guidance. The Eucharistic prayer offered for the season of Advent and Christmas begins:

Holy One, the beginning and the end, the giver of life:

Blessed are you for the birth of creation.

Blessed are you in the darkness and in the light.

Blessed are you for your promise to your people.

Blessed are you in the prophets’ hopes and dreams.

Blessed are you for Mary’s openness to your will.

Blessed are you for your Son Jesus,

the Word made flesh.26

By adding a blessing for the birth of creation and in darkness and light, this prayer orients us toward other species. However, the line, “Blessed are you for your promise to your people,” ignores God’s covenant with all creation in the Flood Narrative and the way creation also participates in God’s work of redemption.

Another option offered in the ELW is the sixth prayer. It begins:

Holy God, mighty Lord,

gracious Father:

endless is your mercy

and eternal your reign.

You have filled all creation

with light and life;

heaven and earth are full of your glory.27

By referencing all creation and declaring that all creation is filled with God’s light and life, this prayer both points worshippers toward the cosmos and demonstrates the sacramental nature of creation. This is a good option for a eco-Eucharistic prayer during ordinary time. However, the best option is the seventh prayer in the ELW:

Holy God, holy and mighty, holy and immortal:

you we praise and glorify, you we worship and adore.

You formed the earth from chaos;

you encircled the globe with air;

you created fire for warmth and light;

you nourish the lands with water.

You molded us in your image,

and with mercy higher than the mountains,

with grace deeper than the seas,

you blessed the Israelites and cherished them as your own.

That also we, estranged and dying,

might be adopted to live in your Spirit,

you called to us through the life and death of Jesus.

In the night in which he was betrayed,

our Lord Jesus took bread, and gave thanks;

broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying:

Take and eat; this is my body, given for you.

Do this for the remembrance of me.

Again, after supper, he took the cup, gave thanks,

and gave it for all to drink, saying:

This cup is the new covenant in my blood,

shed for you and for all people for the forgiveness of sin.

Do this for the remembrance of me.

Together as the body of Christ,

we proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes:

Christ has died.

Christ is risen.

Christ will come again.

With this bread and cup we remember your Son,

the first-born of your new creation.

We remember his life lived for others,

and his death and resurrection, which renews the face of the earth.

We await his coming,

when, with the world made perfect through your wisdom,

all our sins and sorrows will be no more.

Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.

Holy God, holy and merciful one, holy and compassionate,

send upon us and this meal your Holy Spirit,

whose breath revives us for life,

whose fire rouses us to love.

Enfold in your arms all who share this holy food.

Nurture in us the fruits of the Spirit,

that we may be a living tree, sharing your bounty with all the world.

Amen. Come, Holy Spirit.

Holy and benevolent God,

receive our praise and petitions,

as Jesus received the cry of the needy,

and fill us with your blessing,

until, needy no longer and bound to you in love,

we feast forever in the triumph of the Lamb:

through whom all glory and honor is yours, O God, O Living One,

with the Holy Spirit, in your holy church, now and forever.

Amen.28

The very beginning of this prayer alerts us to the fact that we are not the only ones in relationship with the Creator. By declaring, “You formed the earth from chaos; you encircled the globe with air; you created fire for warmth and light; you nourish the lands with water,” this prayer points us toward the entire cosmos as benefiting from and participating in God’s creative power. We are again reminded of our place as one species of created beings among many.

This prayer also opens our senses to the cries of creation by declaring, “We remember his life lived for others, and his death and resurrection, which renews the face of the earth.” Humans are not the only ones in need of healing and renewal. The entire cosmos cries out in brokenness, and in his resurrection Jesus brings wholeness to all creation.

This prayer could more strongly fulfill the third and fourth principles, but by asserting Jesus is “the first-born of all creation,” it points to the sacramental nature of creation. Jesus is present in all the earth and dwells with all creation. The prayer also alludes to creation’s worship by stating, “You molded us in your image, and with mercy higher than the mountains, with grace deeper than the seas, you blessed the Israelites and cherished them as your own.” However, both of these could be strengthened.

Finally, this Eucharist prayer, or one that is similar, could be prayed every week. It is a bit longer than some congregations are used to, so it could also be shortened to leave the most essential parts. Or different principles could be highlighted each week without necessarily demanding that all be present.

Other illustrations

Everything throughout the liturgy can be evaluated with the five guiding principles and altered to form congregations into witnesses for our fellow created beings. Following is a guide through a traditional service from the ELW with various changes to make the creation orientation more obvious.

Gathering

Confession and Forgiveness

If, as Lathrop says, the cardinal directions in our worship are God, each other, the needy, and creation, the rite of Confession and Forgiveness is sorely lacking in the final aspect. While it may be helpful to add a specific petition for forgiveness from our ecological sins, you may also simply recognize our shortcomings in the first prayer for forgiveness like thus: “We have not loved you with our whole heart; we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves; we have not loved all Creation with the love of the Creator.”

Thanksgiving for Baptism

The Thanksgiving for Baptism is perfect place to bring in language that illustrates the five principles mentioned above. One way to open worshippers’ senses to perceive creation’s cries is through the practice of aspurging, or flinging water over the congregation. This tangible reminder of baptism can help draw us back into relationship with water. This is also a good point to have children be involved in the service. Another way to bring actual water into the sanctuary is to include prayers for the health of the local rivers, lakes, streams, oceans, or watershed.

The prayers throughout this rite can be adapted to include the gift of water and the way it brings forth life. Lathrop includes this prayer from the Common Book of Worship in his discussion of baptism: “At the beginning your Spirt was at work, brooding over the waters of creation’s birth, bringing forth life in all its fullness. Through the gift of water you nourish and sustain all living things. Glory to you forever and ever.” 29

If you use the traditional Thanksgiving for Baptism in the ELW, you can make small changes like adding all creatures to “Through the waters of the flood you delivered Noah and his family.”30 There were two of every animal but only eight humans on the ark, yet somehow we only recall God’s saving power toward humanity. In fact, the entire rite should be less human-centered, in recognition of water’s sustaining power for all Creation. It would be appropriate to add a beseeching prayer for the health of nearby waters, or for all water in the globe. “Perhaps even mountains and rivers and seas – even solar systems and galaxies – could enter our prayers. Baptism must not be about saving us from this company, but with this company.”31

Gathering Song

As we begin the gathering song, there are several options. All of them preference the well-being of humanity and exclude the rest of creation. Not all songs must be about the entire cosmos, but these songs are expansive, singing for peace for the entire world. If we have already included all human beings, not just the ones in our assembly, denomination, or faith, we might as well include all other species who worship God.

Slight adjustments to the lyrics may easily alter the song and continue to draw us back into relationship with all other created beings. This is easy in some settings where the Kyrie is chanted and thus more adaptable to changing lyrics, or in churches where the songs are printed in the bulletin instead of sung out of a hymnal. If you are a hymnal church and you do decide to permanently change the lyrics, consider printing a small booklet containing the service hymns with the alterations for each hymnal so that visitor may also participate.

Kyrie

Most of the Kyrie used in the ELW is fine, but the second line is problematic:

“For the peace from above, and for our salvation, let us pray to the Lord.”32

The line, “for the peace from above,” continues the earth-Heaven dichotomy that has led many Christians to treat this planet as disposable. If God truly dwells in the earth, if the earth is filled with God’s glory, then God’s peace is present in, with, under, around, and throughout the entire cosmos. It is not just descending from above, but rising from the deeps, and spreading out from each created being. An amendment that could recognize this might sound like:

“For the peace of the Creator, for the well-being of the church of God…”

Hymn of Praise

The first option for a hymn of praise begins and ends with the phrase, “Glory to God in the highest, and peace to God’s people on earth.”33 This anthropocentric song ignores the worship that creation is already and constantly engaging in. An adaptation could potentially sound like, “Glory to God in the highest and peace to creation on earth.”

The second option, “This is the Feast,” includes the line, “Worthy is Christ, the Lamb who was slain, whose blood set us free to be people of God.”34 However, this language obscures the fact that God’s power of redemption is for the entire cosmos, and not just one species. A more accurate and rhythmically similar adaption looks something like, “Worthy is Christ, the Lamb who was slain, whose blood redeems us and all creation.”

Word

Sermon

Preachers are often willing to preach on creation during a special Season of Creation or Earth Day service, but what about the rest of the year? As part of the ordo, sermons continue the work that the beginning of the service has already started. “Preaching means to bring us again to faith and so gift us again with the reoriented view of the world that belongs to the whole liturgy.”35 While not every sermon has to have creation as its sole focus, there are other ways of bringing in lessons from the Book of Nature. One of the easiest is to include stories of time spent in nature.

For a January term class in seminary, I visited Holden Village – a Lutheran retreat and renewal center in the Cascade Mountains of Washington – to learn how the seasons of the Church were tied to the seasons of creation. Over the course of this class, other students gave presentations about different aspects of the liturgy, especially focusing on the cycle of daily prayer. We explored these topics through mystagogy, using our own experiences, stories, and metaphors to dive deeply into sacramental theology.

Beginning many sessions with prompts and questions like, “Think about your favorite sunrise,” or “What is a memorable scent for you?” allowed us to pull from our own natural experiences to explore theological topics like Gospel canticles and incense. It also demonstrated that almost everyone has cherished and memorable stories of creation that can be told with only a few moments of thought. These stories, of our relationships with creation, can be brought into any sermon as we continue to be reoriented toward our non-human siblings.

Not every sermon must include some sort of personal testimony of a creation experience, but including stories of time in nature throughout the year allows worshipers to continue being reoriented during the preaching event. There are many opportunities for this sort of story – stories of being lost in a wilderness during Lent, stories of new birth or growing things in Easter, stories of things dying through Advent, stories of light and darkness in Christmas and Epiphany, and many more throughout ordinary time.

Meal

The Eucharistic prayer has already been discussed at length, but there are other adaptations that can be made to the rest of the sacrament to strengthen the reorientation toward creation.

Offering

For example, during the offering, if your community has a garden some of the produce can be brought forward with the bread and wine and money. Similarly, flowers, changing leaves, and other parts of nature’s praise like rocks or shells could also be brought up as a representation of what creation is offering God in praise.

Communion

As for the actual physical part of the meal, consider offering vegan bread so that those who do not consume animal products can still partake. There are many excellent recipes online to guide you, and many are also gluten-free.

Conclusion

This guide is not intended to be the definitive answer on how to incorporate love for the earth into the liturgy, but merely the beginning of a conversation. The Holy Spirit will guide each community in their own respective contexts as to how we modify our worship to transform congregations into witnesses for all creation. Lathrop asks, “…does that assembly invite us to see the place on which we meet – and the earth all around the meeting – as holy ground? Do the stories we tell, the meals we eat, the rituals we keep, engage us in caring for the earth with which we live? Or not?”36

My hope and prayer for all worshipping communities is that they will be invited to know the place in which they meet – indeed, the entire earth – as holy ground, as they become reconciled to the rest of the created cosmos. As we are reoriented towards creation, sensing creation’s cries, being drawn to creation’s sacramental nature, joining creation in worship, and doing these things constantly, we will join God’s work of healing and salvation for the entire universe.

Bibliography

Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, and Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada. Evangelical Lutheran Worship: Leaders Desk Edition. Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress, 2006.

Habel, Norman C., Rhoads, David, and Santmire, H. Paul, ed. The Season of Creation: A Preaching Commentary. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2011.

Johnson, Elizabeth. “Heaven and Earth Are Filled with Your Glory” in Finding God in All Things: Essays in Honor of Michael J. Buckley, S.J. New York: The Crossroad Publishing Company, 1996.

Lathrop Gordon. Holy Ground: A Liturgical Cosmology. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2009.

Liturgical Commission of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of North and South America. The Orthodox Liturgy: The Greek Text of the Ecumenical Patriachate with a translation into English. Garwood, New Jersey: Graphic Arts Press, 1974.

Luther, Martin., ed. Jaroslav Pelikan. Luther’s Works Volume 1: Lectures on Genesis, Chapters 1-5. Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House,1958.

Nash, James. Loving Nature: Ecological Integrity and the CristianResponsibility. Nashville: Abingdon; in cooperation with The Church’s Center for Theology and Public Policy, Washington D.C., 1991.

Santmire, H. Paul. Ritualizing Nature: Renewing Christian Liturgy in a Time of Crisis. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2008.

Stewart, Benjamin M. A Watered Garden: Christian Worship and Earth’s Ecology. Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress Publishers, 2011.

“Sunday, February 4, 2018: Fifth Sunday after Epiphany/Lectionary 5,” Sundays and Seasons, accessed February 14, 2018,https://members.sundaysandseasons.com/Home/TextsAndResources ?date=2018-2&eventDateId=0#texts.

“Sunday, February 18, 2018: First Sunday in Lent,” Sundays and Seasons, accessed February 14, 2018, https://members.sundaysandseasons.com/Home/TextsAndResources/2018-2-18/0#texts.

Endnotes

1 Gordon Lathrop, Holy Ground: A Liturgical Cosmology (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2009) 135.

2 Ibid., 146.

3 James Nash, Loving Nature: Ecological integrity and the Cristian Responsibility (Nashville: Abingdon; in cooperation with The Church’s Center for Theology and Public Policy, Washington D.C., 1991), 133.

4 Norman C. Habel, David Rhoads, and H. Paul Santmire, ed., The Season of Creation: A Preaching Commentary (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2011), 20.

5 H. Paul Santmire, Ritualizing Nature: Renewing Christian Liturgy in a Time of Crisis (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2008), 89.

6 Habel, Rhoads, and Santmire, The Season of Creation, 17.

7 Lathrop, Holy Ground, 58-59.

8 Ibid., 63.

9 Habel, Rhoads, and Santmire, The Season of Creation, 5.

10 Benjamin M. Stewart, A Watered Garden: Christian Worship and Earth’s Ecology (Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress Publishers, 2011), 10.

11 Liturgical Commission of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of North and South America, The Orthodox Liturgy: The Greek Text of the Ecumenical Patriachate with a translation into English (Garwood, New Jersey: Graphic Arts Press, 1974), 25, 27, 71.

12 Lathrop, Holy Ground, 4.

13 Martin Luther, ed. Jaroslav Pelikan, Luther’s Works Volume 1: Lectures on Genesis, Chapters 1-5 (Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1958), 248.

14 Habel, Rhoads, and Santmire, The Season of Creation, 45.

15 Habel, Rhoads, and Santmire, The Season of Creation, 39.

16 Stewart, A Watered Garden, 52.

17 Elizabeth Johnson “Heaven and Earth Are Filled with Your Glory” in Finding God in All Things: Essays in Honor of Michael J. Buckley, S.J. (New York: The Crossroad Publishing Company, 1996), 93.

18 Stewart, A Watered Garden, 18.

19 Habel, Rhoads, and Santmire, The Season of Creation, 4.

20 Habel, Rhoads, and Santmire, The Season of Creation, 19.

21 Habel, Rhoads, and Santmire, The Season of Creation, 18.

22 “Sunday, February 4, 2018: Fifth Sunday after Epiphany/Lectionary 5,” Sundays and Seasons, accessed February 14, 2018, https://members.sundaysandseasons.com/Home/TextsAndResources?date=2018-2&eventDateId=0#texts.

23 “Sunday, February 18, 2018: First Sunday in Lent,” Sundays and Seasons, accessed February 14, 2018, https://members.sundaysandseasons.com/Home/TextsAndResources/2018-2-18/0#texts.

24 Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, and Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada, Evangelical Lutheran Worship: Leaders Desk Edition (Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress, 2006), 152. (Hereafter cited as ELCA and ELCC, ELW:LDE)

25 ELCA and ELCC, ELW:LDE, 194-195.

26 ELCA and ELCC, ELW:LDE, 196.

27 Ibid., 199.

28 ELCA and ELCC, ELW:LDE, 200-201.

29 “Thanksgiving over the Water”, Book of Common Worship (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 1993), 422. As cited in Holy Ground 104.

30 ELCA and ELCC, ELW:LDE, 169.

31 Lathrop, Holy Ground, 113.

32 ELCA and ELCC, ELW:LDE, 170.

33 Ibid., 171.

34 Ibid., 173.

35 Lathrop, Holy Ground, 204.

36 Lathrop, Holy Ground, 125.

Awakening to God’s Call to Earthkeeping

Download this free resource for a non-politicized, easy to follow path to help connect faith, eco-theology and the community we find at church.

Awakening_To_Gods_Call_To_Earthkeeping

A four-session small group study to encourage, empower, and equip Lutherans in their calling to care for creation; includes a leader guide.  Compiled by ELCA Deacon Kim Winchell, who was instrumental in the development of the Lutherans Restoring Creation movement, this is a timeless resource. and great first step to open people’s hearts and minds to what the environment has to do with church.

Transportation: “On the Way” Bible Study

Opening Prayer: Gracious God, we have gathered here from many places. Thank you for safe travels. Bless this time together. Amen.

Introductory discussion: Much of Jesus’ ministry took place on the way from one place to another. Thus, transportation is an important aspect of the Gospel stories.

What might inhibit us from thinking about transportation as an opportunity for living out our faith? (Isolation in cars? Transportation as simply a means of getting from here to there? Competition for road space? Stresses of traffic? “Road rage”? Etc.)

Reading and discussion: Read Luke 24:13-32 (The Road to Emmaus).

Why do you think the disciples fail to recognize Jesus?

What does it mean to meet Jesus on the way from place to place?

How can we understand the meaning of this story in light of car culture?

Reading and discussion: Read Luke 10:29-37 (The Good Samaritan). Jesus regularly taught with parables like this one.

Why do you think the priest and the Levite neglected to help the suffering man? (On the way to an important engagement? No time to spare? Social expectations?)

How can we understand the meaning of this story in light of car culture? How might we identify the neighbor given current transportation habits?

Reflection: What would it take to be faithful on the way from place to place?

How might we reconsider our transportation habits to provide for more opportunities to encounter Christ, to encounter the neighbor?

Do we have nonhuman neighbors? How does our mode of transportation affect how we encounter them?

Closing Prayer: Gracious God, we thank you for your vast creation, of which we are a part. Hold your creation in mercy and love. Amen.